Saturday, July 16, 2011

What's Your Story?

[Photo: http://www.awwproject.org/]

"I believe as these women write, they also begin,
in way only they know, to take control."
Masha Hamilton*

I recently began an 8 week workshop facilitated by my favorite Queen, Dani. That in itself is a story I can't wait to share but not the one I want to tell you about tonight.

As part of the supply list for the course I was instructed to cull through various magazines for pictures and words to use in creating collage pages. I really don't remember the last magazine I read. No I take that back, it was a Southern Living magazine that tempted me by putting a picture of a perfectly woven top crust on a juicy peach pie on the cover. I really don't even like peach pie. However, every year I swoon at the undoubtedly air brushed but delicious-looking pies that grace the cover of SL. When Dad was alive it would inspire me to make one of his favorite desserts, peach cobbler. And every year I had to ask someone the difference between a cobbler and a pie and try to re-create something his mother made when Dad was a child. I doubt I'd have ever come close to making something as good as his memory conjured up, but I tried anyway. I love Southern Living Magazine in the same way I used to love reading Arizona Highways. The stories of regional people and places and food are like a magic carpet ride to places I'll probably never see.

But magazines aren't my topic for tonight, either. I came across a small article in More Magazine entitled "Giving Voice to the Powerless Women." I dove right in.
"The first time Masha Hamilton traveled through Afghanistan talking with the country's most disenfranchised women - war widows, imprisoned criminals, child brides, she felt that the expulsion of the Taliban had given them a sense of hope. When she went back four years later, in 2008, the Taliban had returned to power in large sections of the south, "almost overnight" she says. That led Hamilton to act on a long-simmering idea, one sparked by the Taliban's public execution of a mother of seven, to help Afghan women tell their stories. "Telling one's story is a human right," says Hamilton, a journalist, award winning novelist and Brooklyn mother of three. "

"In 2009 Hamilton founded the Afghan Women's Writing Project (AWWP). Since then some 100 American authors, journalists, and screenwriters have led month-long online workshops for more than 60 Afghan women."*

Well, needless to say I was hooked. After all, I'm a woman, a writer, and a believer that every person created in the image of the Divine One has a right, perhaps an obligation, to share their story. While I write, others sing, or paint, or dance, or beat a drum, or feed the poor, or a use whole host of other mediums to tell the world their individual story. I believe each story is like a candle that when told collectively will light the darkness.

Many Afghan women are denied freedoms we take for granted, including the fundamental right to tell one’s own story.

"From June 15 to July 31, 2011, AWWP is running a campaign to support Project efforts to bring more voices of Afghan women to the world through their writing.

All donors will be entered in a drawing to win gifts from authors and artists from around the world. Any amount is welcome, but we suggest a minimum of $20 for this special campaign." **

I would be the first to say that there are many causes that need my/your limited amount of giving. I have some favorites. I'm sure you do too. Still I ask that you go to the AWWP website, read about the program and help in any way you can.

Why Afghanistan, you ask? Why not my own backyard? My answer would be to try to do both. Whether you believe in or agree with the war(s) in the Middle East, the fact remains that Afghanistan has been a battlefield for way too long. While it is, in my opinion, men who make the decision to go to war, it is women who must pick up the pieces when the bombs have stopped falling. The dollars we send to help these (and women in other countries around the world) won't offset the dollars spent on missiles but I believe they are seeds planted for peace.

As for your own backyard? I feel certain whether you live in a small town or a faced-paced city opportunities abound to tell your story and help others tell theirs. Why not volunteer to tutor women and/or children in a homeless shelter? Or donate old books to after school programs? Or read stories at a day care center?

Today I'm grateful for all the pens and pencils and pads of paper that I take for granted. I'm grateful for the gift of storytelling that was passed down to me. I'm grateful for the afternoons when I lay next to my mother while she read me to sleep. I'm grateful for women like Masha Hamilton.

Wishing for you the courage and freedom to share your story,
Merry ME

* Giving Voice to Powerless Women, More Magazine, June 2011, pg. 24

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mary,
Thank you so much for writing this. You make wonderful points and I too am grateful for women like Masha and for those like you who give voice to your experience. Best, Rachel